The Bag Witch Project: Part Three
Gencon 2000: The Curse of the Bag Witch
The year between Gencon 1999 and 2000 was a busy one for Toxic Bag. We were hard at work on “Strange Places,” the fourth volume of the Game Masters Collection sound effects CDs, as well as doing sound design for a couple of feature-length independent films and starting location recording for our “Battles” sound scenes CD.
The Bag Witch Project had taken on a small life of its own, spreading through word of mouth at game conventions across the midwest. We heard of a guy who would hold “Bag Witch” screening parties at every convention he attended. Someone sent us an entire case of Twinkies snack cakes based on one of the gags in the film (and we do mean gag–Chris had to eat the Twinkie and he finds them pretty gross).
Not that we had a runaway hit by any stretch. Bag Witch‘s appeal didn’t seem to extend beyond the gamer world. As more and more Blair Witch parodies cropped up, the parodies became as much part of the Blair Witch conversation as the original film. One film critic even brought up Bag Witch in an interview with Blair Witch‘s Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez as an example of how many awful parodies were out there.
So we decided to produce a follow-up video. As no Blair Witch sequel had yet been released we decided to make a parody of “Curse of the Blair Witch,” the SciFi Channel special that accompanied the original film and provided much of the back story of the legend of the Witch. So we wrote up a back story for the “Bag Witch,” wherein a woman is ejected from MarCon (an early incarnation of the GenCon fair) in Milwaukee in the late 1960s and vows revenge. The name “Bag Witch” is explained –in possibly the clumsiest retcon ever devised—as a foreshortening of “Lunch Bag Witch”—part of the witch’s curse, apparently, was that all the bag lunches at MarCon suddenly spoiled. We cast a bunch of relatives and friends (including an appearance by the infamous Chain Mail Girl as Joe’s, uh, “love interest”) and spent the summer shooting “The Curse of the Bag Witch.” “Curse” is the polar opposite of “Bag Witch”–scripted, tightly edited, with cool motion graphics and music, and best of all Steve and Joe didn’t have to act in it (Chris does have a brilliant cameo as his own brother)!
At the same time, we looked into the possibility of releasing “Bag Witch” on DVD. We were selling enough VHS copies that it seemed to make sense to move up to the new technology. However, at the time it was prohibitively expensive. For the quantities we wanted to order (a few hundred) we were getting quotes of around $18 per disc! So, shelving the DVD concept for the time being, we decided instead to create a “Special Edition” VHS version of the original film that included the same special features that a DVD would have. We recorded a cast/crew commentary track under the film and cut together some of the deleted scenes, and put it all on the tape. So one could watch the original movie, and if you let the tape run you’d see the deleted scenes and then the whole movie again with the commentary track. How delightfully primitive.
What we said then:
GENCON 2000: The Return
A new year, a new show. Would the Bag Witch still have the effect she had last year? We didn’t want to show up and find we were George Lucas, trying in vain to recreate past glories. For some reason which remains beyond our comprehension, the old girl was once again one of the big hits at the dance. Not wanting to risk the ire of the MECCA fire marshals by showing the films at our booth, we decided to wrangle another Anime room showing. After several discussions with the Anime room folks (thanks to them, btw) we were able to secure a half-hour on Saturday night. While this was not enough to show both “The Bag Witch Project” and our new effort, “Curse of the Bag Witch,” we decided to go with the new piece. “Curse” had its World Premiere at 11:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, August 12, 2000. Now, if you read last year’s missive on the Bag Witch Weekend (and if you didn’t, scroll down–we’ll wait), you know we were absolutely terrified at the Anime room showing. Well, this year we were not only scared of sucking, we were afraid of being old news. Thankfully, as the end credits rolled we were treated to cheers and enthusiastic applause…you can breathe now, Steve.
The run-up to GenCon 2000 was the period where we started thinking of Bag Witch as more than just a fluke, a marketing gimmick that accidentally became a viable product. We started thinking in terms of creating a body of work that was a larger parody of summer blockbuster films, with all the attendant hype and excess: commentary tracks, interactive website, t-shirts, spin-off releases, card games, action figures…
Clearly, we were going out of our minds.
Despite only having one showing, “Bag Witch Project” and “Special Edition” both sold out, and we sold over half our stock of “Curse.” Special thanks again to all the Bag Witch fans who have helped us take a total lark of an idea and turn it into a grotesquely over-realized parody of not just a film, but of its attendant hype and marketing as well! Who knows what will happen next year…I hear there’s a “Blair Witch” sequel coming out this Halloween…